The Wretched

Nin joined the great march to the east. There he walked among the old, the sick and the hungry. Rabbits of all castes and creeds and colours. It was a great mass moving as one, and in their hearts they were one. Their shared suffering had overridden all former divisions, now they all belonged to one group: the vanquished.

“Woe to us,” cried the masses. “War has come and torn through our homes, our burrows, our countries. We are now orphans of the world.”

They came upon the great golden walled city, often referred to as The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, known throughout the land for its wealth and splendour. But here, as they approached the great golden gates of the city, they found the entrance barred.

A giant rabbit, bigger than even the largest of bears, towered over the procession.

“Hold,” bellowed the large rabbit. “I have been assigned to guard this gate and judge the petitioners who desire access to the golden city of Heaven.” He looked out over the crowd. “I see the weak, the tried, the needy and the helpless. You are a wretched lot, in need of charity and of shelter. Nonetheless, you are not permitted to enter. Only a chosen few may reside here.”

“I am rather disgusted,” replied Nin, “your compassion seems rather limited in its scope. Who is heaven for, if not the wretched?”

“The righteous,” replied the gatekeeper.

“The righteous have no need for heaven,” thought Nin out loud. “They carry god with them like a badge or shield. Surely heaven already exists within their hearts and within their minds.”

“Still,” replied the gatekeeper, his face like stone, “the way is barred.”

Nin tried a different approach. “Is it righteous to deny us entry? Us, most in need of god?”

“No,” agreed the gatekeeper, “it is not righteous.”

“Then you are a hypocrite, sir,” said Nin, “to claim residency in this land of virtue.”

The gatekeeper shuffled uncomfortably. “No—I, too, have been denied entry. I, too, am forever barred. This gate I guard—its threshold I can never cross. This is as close to heaven as I am allowed.”

“So the peoples of this place merely outsource their sins,” Nin thought privately, “and think themselves pure, and their paws clean.”

“How many years have you guarded this entrance?” he asked the gatekeeper.

“Near fifteen years now,” replied the guard.

“And in that time, how many have you permitted entry to The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth?”

“None,” said the guard. “I have turned away thousands, all of them unworthy. But do not blame me, I am only following the mandate of this place, passed onto me by my predecessor. For I, too, was once a petitioner like yourselves.”

Some time later, when the gates of The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth were finally thrown open and its burrows and dens of pure gold were exposed to the light, it was found that the entire city was empty and deserted. Not a single soul resided there.